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Christina Tosi at the Milk Bar Commissary in Williamsburg. // © Jasmin Sun
Whether she’s dealing Crack Pie, or throwing everything from toffee and pretzels to coffee grounds and potato chips into her best-selling Compost Cookies, Momofuku Milk Bar chef-owner Christina Tosi is infamous for her madcap take on dessert.
At Scharffen Berger’s Chocolate Adventure Contest kickoff event last night at Milk Bar’s Williamsburg commissary, Tosi unveiled a sandwich cookie with bananas, cacao nibs and pine nuts; and another with chocolate, coconut milk and coconut cream. She also talked to F&W about the craziest ingredients she’s ever tried to bake into a cookie, with equally surprising results.
Gummy Bears. “We figured out that anything jelly in a cookie does not taste good. They definitely melt, and not in a good way. They either melt into the cookie or melt out of the cookie, and then the beauty of what they are is gone. Gummy bears are mostly water, gelatin and sugar, so when they’re baked, the water and the gelatin just disappear in a really creepy way.”
Tobacco. “We use ground Thai tea powder in cookies to create a really great essence. [When we created them], we were on a roll with ground dried things—we also successfully used Lipton tea in crumbs and crunches for cookies—so we were like, ‘What else has a similar texture that we could put into a cookie?’ With tobacco, I thought it might develop a chicory sort of flavor, but it does not. It sort of smells and tastes like a weed cookie, which I don’t think I’m allowed to say, but bad things happen.”
Cut Grass. “I was at some weird Dominican bodega, and they had some ‘cut grass’ on their spice rack, like how you would find dried oregano at a grocery store. So one summer I was like, ‘Let’s try freshly cut grass!’ The cookie tasted gross. The batter was green, but as soon as it hit heat, it turned brown and developed a burnt-plant flavor. It didn’t even taste like lawn. You know when they’re burning fields of something? It tasted exactly like how that smells.”
Cheese. “Almost any kind of cheese is delicious in a cookie, but sharp cheddar and Gruyère are especially good since they play well with butter. Swiss and Emmental also work well. Blue cheese is pretty good, but you have to be careful about the salty-sweet balance. As far as the cookie base, it’s usually your standard butter, light-brown sugar, regular sugar, egg, a little bit of vanilla, shredded cheese, flour and baking soda. With something like Camembert, where it’s a little liquid at room temperature, I would just paddle it in as part of the butter. It’s really cool. It feels like you’re eating real food, but you’re actually eating a cookie.”
Tea powder. “This is one of those pantry items that people never think about using. We literally take Lipton tea, grind it down and put it into the cookie flour. It speckles it in a really cool way. Then I’ll add a bit of lemon zest or lemon juice, maybe lemon extract—something to play off how you’d normally serve tea. Dried fruit is also really good in ground-tea cookies.”
Basil. “Though ground basil tastes awful in a cookie, fresh basil tastes great. Basically, you take a bunch of fresh basil, grind it down with room-temperature butter to make a green butter. Then add a little bit of acid: Citric acid, lemon juice or lime juice works, just so the fresh basil butter doesn’t oxidize. Then paddle it into the batter like you would a regular cookie. You have to put enough basil in for it to really taste like basil—if you don’t put enough, you’ll get that dreaded burnt-plant taste. Otherwise it tastes awesome, like an herb cracker, but with the texture of a cookie.”
Kool-Aid. “It’s weird, because if you just mix grape Kool-Aid with water, it’s awesome! But there’s something about the way that butter behaves with the mix that doesn’t translate the way it does when you combine it with water. The cookie is super purple, and has almost has no flavor to it. I don’t know if it’s because the fat from the butter just mutes the flavor of the Kool-Aid, but the result was pretty much like if you put a bunch of purple food coloring into the cookie dough and just burnt it. It just tastes like something weird is in your mouth.”
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